Russische Föderation: Svetlana Gannushkina

People rely on us, they come to us, write letters with appeals for help. That is why we take on even hopeless cases and, against all the odds, sometimes manage to succeed.

— Svetlana Gannushkina

Svetlana Gannushkina (born 1942) has been engaged in peace activism since the beginning of the Karabakh conflict (1988), helping to free hundreds of Azerbaijani and Armenian prisoners of war. She is one of the founders of the Komitet Grazhdanskaya pomoshch (Civil Assistance Committee). She has contributed to the creation of Memorial, an NGO and human rights network in the Russian Federation, and of the Migration and Law Network. Svetlana was a member of the Governmental Commission on Migration Policy and is now a member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights.

By the winter of 2002, the Chechen refugee camps had become the evidence of the real state of affairs in Chechnya, and so the Russian authorities decided to close them. They applied various means: threats, refusal of humanitarian aid, and cutting off gas and electricity supply. Nevertheless, people did not want to return to Chechnya, to the hell of the war. In November 2002, the camp Iman in the village of Aki-Yurt (Ingushetia) was dismantled. The refugees were forced to leave the camp. However, Svetlana Gannushkina immediately arrived in Ingushetia and, despite the resistance of the authorities, managed to make the event public. The documents about the forced displacement of the refugees were handed over to the President of Russia at his meeting with the members of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights. Three members of the Commission – Ella Pamfilova, Lyudmila Alekseeva, and Svetlana Gannushkina – headed for Ingushetia and Chechnya. They had little time. Within two days, they had to visit several refugee camps to see everything with their own eyes. Yet, some people from the local authorities, who accompanied them, did their best to prevent human rights activists from communicating with refugees. On 27 December 2002, the peace advocates were invited to the government building of the Chechen Republic for dinner. They refused the invitation, ate a snack, and set out on their way. Forty minutes later, after the group left the building, it was destroyed. A truck loaded with explosives had managed to pass all the security posts. Dozens of people died. The refugees were not forced to move that winter. Svetlana Gannushkina still goes regularly to Ingushetia and Chechnya, where the Komitet Grazhdanskaya pomoshch and Human Rights Center Memorial organize humanitarian and human rights programs.

Komitet Grazhdanskaya pomoshch (Civil Assistance Committee)